Althought education was not a major theme in Donald Trump’s campaign for president, he did propose to , eliminate the Common Core standards in English and math, and establish a $20 billion program to expand school choice for low-income children. Within days of his electoral victory, he posted a two-paragraph statement on education on a new website, greatagain.org.
EdSource asked 16 leaders in their respective fields or organizations in California to anticipate possible changes in education policy during a Trump presidency. Their voices are not intended to be representative of the education community in California, or of all political points of view. EdSource did approach Californians in touch with the Trump transition team, but they did not wish to express their thoughts publicly. We will add other perspectives in the days and weeks ahead.
President, State Board of Education
If Trump wants to change the draft regulations, he would have to reopen the process.
In the short term, K-12 education wouldn’t appear to be a top priority of the Trump administration.
The big thing we are looking for right now is the proposed regulations for ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act). We are in the middle of the draft regulations, so we are looking for a signal as to the intent and timing. We would expect more flexibility (from the Trump administration) with ESSA, but if the Obama administration promulgates the regulations, as they have a right to do, and Trump wants to change them, he would have to reopen the process, which would take awhile.
My view is Lamar Alexander (Republican senator from Tennessee who was instrumental in the law's passage) is satisfied with the law he’s got.
This state does not want a voucher program, so a big issue is what Trump would do about that. He could cut federal aid to education to fund his big infrastructure plan.
If he wants to repeal Common Core, this is not something he could do through executive action or regulations. A new law would be needed to say that states cannot teach certain standards. He would have to override the viewpoint (in the Every Student Succeeds Act that says) that the federal government should not get involved in determining academic standards.
Deputy Director, First 5 California
President-elect Trump has said he believes in family leave and child care.
Early childhood advocates had the distinction of having one of the only issues the two candidates agreed on. President-elect Trump has said he believes in family leave and child care.
Those of us in the early childhood world look forward to seizing on that statement. We hope to pave the way for protecting federal investments in that area in partnership with California. We hope to use that support as a bridge to discuss the crucial importance of other safety nets to keep parents working and keep their children in school.
The types of strategies that Trump has mentioned, such as tax credits, have not been consistent with what California has been doing. But we hope we can piece together what Trump is proposing with California's approach. The patchwork quilt can take a lot of threads, and it's a good thing to explore.
First 5 California is a governmental program dedicated to improving the lives of California’s children prenatal through age 5 through a comprehensive system of education, health services, childcare and other programs.
President, California Federation of Teachers
Trump has voiced a national right-to-work agenda. He has the wind at his back.
There is an opening (for Trump) to nominate somebody to the Supreme Court who will not be friendly to unions. There had been a reprieve with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Now we will go back to preparing for (another Friedrichs case before the court) and other things. Since the Senate and the House are controlled by the GOP, this opens the door to Friedrichs-like efforts across the U.S. labor movement. (Note: Friedrichs v. California challenged the right of public employee unions to collect collective bargaining fees from all workers covered by a contract.)
Trump has voiced a national right-to-work agenda. The Republicans control two branches of government, which gives them the power and the political will to do it. Trump has the wind at his back.
He has expressed support for (federal funding of) vouchers. I’m not sure how that happens, but with the Senate and House (under Republican control), that makes that a scary prospective. He is supportive of more charter schools. While President Obama was not anti-charter, he wasn't fanning flames of the movement like Donald Trump will.
The California Federation of Teachers represents educational employees in a range of organizations, including Head Start and the University of California.
Executive Director, Education Trust-West
We now have a leader who has yet to be clear on how he’ll lead on education, let alone how – or even if – he thinks about equity.
It’s shameful, but we never got a sense of Trump’s vision for K-12 education. I'm interested to see what he does with the Department of Education, and whether he reduces its scope.
I want to see who he picks for secretary of education. I see people like Lamar Alexander (Republican senator from Tennessee) rise to the top as the go-to figure given his past as the secretary of education and his work on ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act). I will be watching him. He has said he is willing to rewrite parts of ESSA’s draft regulations. Alexander feels there has been some overreach by the U.S. Dept. of Education. I don't believe Secretary John King has overreached. I think he is well within his purview in what he has proposed in the regulations.
I’m also concerned that Trump is going to implement a vision around vouchers, which research shows does not work at any level for poor students or students of color.
We now have a leader who has yet to be clear on how he’ll lead on education, let alone how – or even if – he thinks about equity. It will be interesting to see what he thinks will close education equity gaps or if he is believes they need to be closed at all.
Education Trust-West is the California branch of the education nonprofit that works to close the gaps in opportunity and achievement for all students.
President, Los Angeles Unified Board of Education
I don’t think he has thought at all about public schools.
I’m expecting at least one kind of radical deregulation policy in education, although I do not claim to know what that will be. It might be a federally implemented voucher program. Or President Trump might try to federalize what charter schools have done at the local and state level, including privatizing charter schools so that they might be situated in Los Angeles, but not chartered in Los Angeles.
Privatization will be a huge issue with him. I could see the rights of teachers and school employees becoming a target of President Trump or his Department of Education – if he has a Department of Education. But I’m sure we’ll see a more diminished federal role in education policy.
But this is all speculative. The defining thing of the moment is: Do we care about children?
I don’t think President Trump has thought at all about public schools. But it’s not just him. There’s also a Republican Congress that has shown over and over again that they don’t very much like poor children, that they very much don’t like teachers who teach poor children, that they very much don't support systems that serve poor children.
The only buffer we’ve had against the party that created Donald Trump has been Barack Obama. Without him as that buffer, it’s easy to understand why people who work in public education are so scared today. Those three things – Donald Trump, a Republican Congress and a Republican Senate – make this the most perilous moment since public education came into being 100 years ago.
President, Children Now
As advocates, we make a mistake if we think there is not an opportunity in D.C.
Putting aside personal feelings, it was encouraging that President-elect Trump did highlight child care in the campaign. As advocates, we make a mistake if we think there is not an opportunity in D.C. The Republican-led Congress in the last session approved more funding for Head Start and home visiting programs to help new mothers.
Trump seems to have some focus on the need to make child care more accessible and affordable. In the campaign, they were talking about tax credits, but we also need money in the budget for quality child care and preschool. In his acceptance speech, Trump also talked about infrastructure. We also need support for more infrastructure in early childhood to increase capacity.
Children Now is a nonpartisan research, policy development, & advocacy organization dedicated to improving the overall well-being of California's children.
Founder and CEO of New Teacher Center
We will watch to see if this pot of federal funding for low-income kids will be syphoned off to pay for federal vouchers/school choice.
I will be watching a few signs in the next few months, including: What will be done with Title I money, and whether there will there be cuts or a formula change, possibly to benefit rural schools at the expense of urban schools. We will watch to see if this pot of federal funding for low-income kids will be syphoned off to pay for federal vouchers/school choice. There are implications for teacher coaching/support given that many receiving districts – particularly the poorest ones – use Title 1 money to fund teacher development.
Traditional higher ed/teacher training: We'll be interested to see how hard the Trump Administration will move against colleges and universities, particularly through the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act as well as the budgetary process. We'll also be looking at whether the new administration will support the Every Student Succeeds Act regulations proposed by the Obama administration that require measuring how graduates of teacher preparation programs perform as teachers (largely through student test scores).
Evidence-based programs: We'll be looking at whether Republicans support funding for Obama-era competitive programs that identify and support evidence-based approaches to teacher development.
New Teacher Center is dedicated to improving student learning by accelerating the effectiveness of new teachers and school leaders.
Executive Director, Partnership for Children and Youth
No matter how well the state is doing economically, federal investments are critical to providing equitable educational opportunities.
President-elect Trump has signaled he wants a scaled-back federal role in education. During the campaign he also suggested directing $20 billion of current education spending toward “school choice” policies, including allowing public dollars to be used for private school.
We are very concerned these things could mean fewer resources for key programs supporting students living in poverty and/or needing additional supports, the prime example being Title 1, but also programs like 21st Century Community Learning Centers that are critical to ensuring disadvantaged students receive after-school and summer learning opportunities. No matter how well the state is doing economically, these federal investments are critical to providing equitable educational opportunities and supports for students from under-resourced communities.
Partnership for Children & Youth works to ensure children have the learning, health and social supports needed to succeed.
Director, Charter Development Center
Would there be a charter component within existing Title I funding?
Education is not President-elect Trump’s area, and he has spoken very skeletally about it. He does not have an education policy track record, so the person he brings in as secretary of education could have an outsized influence to help shape policy. Or would Trump turn over that responsibility to Vice President Pence? If that person can work nominally with a Republican Congress, he could really get stuff done.
When talking about rebuilding inner cities, he said there would be a $20 billion school choice program. The only detail is that it’s not going to be new money. So would there be a charter component within existing Title I funding? He said it might be combined with ‘portability’ (giving families the right to decide how to use the money for school tuition), but it’s not clear what that means.
Can the new administration try to push the ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) train back up the track in an effort to rewrite regulations? Would Trump attempt to weaken Common Core by strengthening the parent opt-out on testing or change ESSA’s student testing requirement?
The Charter Development Center is the nation's oldest charter support organization and helped write California's first charter school laws in 1992.
President, The Campaign for College Opportunity
Many immigrant students have never called any other nation but ours home.
Because college affordability is the key to ensuring opportunity and economic success for more Americans, we will urge the president-elect to strengthen federal financial aid by ensuring the application process for FAFSA is clear and that aid continues to support the students who need it most. We will also urge him to keep college affordable by strengthening Pell Grants so students can access resources to enroll in summer courses.
We worry that students granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status under President Obama’s executive order (a third of whom are Californians) face not only the threat of the program’s immediate elimination, but deportation. This is huge cause for concern as many of these Californians are ready to contribute to the strength of our economy and help us meet workforce demands for a more educated populace. Many of these immigrant students have never called any other nation but ours home.
We are grateful to the leadership of UC President Janet Napolitano and incoming Community College Chancellor Eloy Oakley, along with leaders from our California Senate and Assembly, for issuing statements in support of our fellow community members. We stand with them.
The Campaign for College Opportunity works to ensure all Californians have an equal opportunity to attend and succeed in college.
Executive Director, California Child Care Resource & Referral Network
We are bracing ourselves for possible scenarios to come.
We’re bracing ourselves for what could be, possible scenarios to come. If Obamacare gets repealed, then what’s that going to mean for the California budget, and then for the loss of Medi-Cal dollars, and therefore how much is available for building up our early care and education system?
We're also anticipating that there will be changes to the child care development block grant, which isn't fully funded now.
Child Care Resource & Referral Network supports California parents, providers and local communities in providing affordable, quality child care.
CEO, Alpha Public Schools, San Jose
There is palpable fear that for many of these families is almost like an anxiety that never really goes away, and now it’s very tangible.
The biggest concern I have with respect to the Alpha community is the extent to which the language and rhetoric (around immigration) will change.
What is the language? What is the tone? Does it become clear it (what Donald Trump said on the campaign trail) was just said to get elected or was it really meant? That’s what I’m going to be focusing on.
Ninety percent of our kids are Latino, and we don’t ever ask or have any sense of their legal status, or of their parents, or their aunts and uncles.
There is palpable fear. Many of these families feel anxiety that never really goes away. Some of our students are not going to find out that they are undocumented until they apply for college. Their parents don’t always tell them. There are a lot of situations where the parents are undocumented immigrants, but the children were born here.
We need our parents to be strong advocates for their kids, to go to school board meetings. But if they are living in fear, they are not going to express concerns over the quality of their children’s education in public.
If you don’t feel that you and your family members are secure, it’s really hard to focus. It can be hard to inspire students to be college-ready – and do the hard work and make sacrifices – if they’re unsure they will have access to college, to scholarships, to jobs and to be able to stay in the United States. It’s going to be a lot harder to get them excited.
Alpha Public Schools is a network of public charter secondary schools.
President, Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities
Free public college is probably dead for now, but I foresee President-elect Trump will support need-based aid – the Pell Grant program. I am worried about funding for the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant and Perkins loans (which give extra aid for students with exceptionally large need). They have been great programs, but Republicans have been trying to eliminate them for years.
I would expect that the regulations on distance (online) education may not happen soon, if at all.
The Association of Independent California Collgees and Universities represents nearly 80 not-for-profit college and universities in California.
Christopher Edley Jr.
President, The Opportunity Institute
His own views are almost surely unformed, so his appointments will be far better predictors than his campaign statements.
One needs an exceptionally fecund imagination to discern the implications of President-elect Trump’s victory because he said so little about education, and what he said can’t be counted on. He won’t feel beholden to conservative GOP orthodoxy, which does no favors for the Trump base. His own views are almost surely unformed, so his appointments will be far better predictors than his campaign statements – the opposite of what we usually expect.
That said, expect an even weaker federal focus on K-12 equity and excellence, no interest in elevating the teaching profession, no big initiative on college finance or early childhood, and probably nothing helpful in reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
The social justice community will return to our posture at the dawn of the Reagan presidency: avoid harm, congregate at your peril, and focus on the states. Our state-facing work on ESSA implementation convinces me that even in bright red states there can be an impressive official and nongovernmental organizations’ commitment to “opportunity for all” measures, at least those without huge price tags. I believe that although progress can be fragile, we can make justice resilient.
Note: Edley was an education advisor to Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign.
The Opportunity Institute is a non-profit organization that promotes social mobility and equity by improving outcomes from early childhood through early career.
Eloy Ortiz Oakley
Incoming Chancellor, California Community Colleges
Career technical education will be another area of great attention in the new administration.
The cost of education will be on the table based on the concerns raised in the presidential campaign. Community colleges will be an important part of any policy proposal, and further integration between K-12, community colleges and public universities is likely to be discussed.
I believe career technical education will be another area of great attention in the new administration as the country struggles to retool workers with the skills they need to fill the jobs that President Trump will hope to create.
Superintendent, Visalia Unified School District
I don’t think encouraging competition in and of itself helps much.
President-elect Trump's overall perception of Common Core is an uneducated one. I don’t think he understands the perspective locally in the Central Valley. The Common Core standards are challenging and good because they take us far beyond solving for x to a deeper understanding of math, and that’s the purpose of education.
I understand he has said something along the lines of, ‘Let’s take apart the Department of Education.' In terms of local control, maybe that makes sense, maybe it doesn't. It depends on the details.
Charter schools are kind of an enigma. The data I’ve seen is that they are either really good and well-run, or they’re not. I don’t think encouraging competition in and of itself helps much. Are we going to take money away from existing schools and re-route it to charters? That’s not fair. How do we establish charter school competition on a level playing field?
The other choice issue is school vouchers. Where does that money come from and what does it mean? I just don’t know what the details are.
Thanks for reading.
Can you help sustain our reporting?
Our team of journalists, editors, and fact-checkers do an estimated 440 hours of research every week to bring you the news on California education. That's a lot of work.
For a limited time, your contributions will be doubled through the NewsMatch matching gifts program.